A little break

Even though Paris is still cold and grey, I'm happy to report that I'm strutting around with a healthy beach tan thanks to a holiday last week in Corsica with Carin, Milsters, Diane and Edna. We spent five days relaxing, dining, strolling and celebrating life in this beautiful island south of France.

Before I continue, I wanted to let you know a couple of admin stuff: this post and the next few will be published from a wordpress application on my iPhone and that it will be a while before I can post my normal camera photographs in this space. My laptop died and is at the repair centre right now. The tech guys confirmed everything in the hard drive is gone. This news gave me no less than two hours of meltdown before I felt ridiculous.

So moving on, please check out my friends' blogs to see fantastic photographs from this vacation. I feel humbled to be surrounded by amazing people and extremely happy to have gone on this trip. Even though it wasn't long, it was that kind of holiday that I would remember forever and didn't want to end.

Corsica is an amazing, tranquil and beautiful place, not to mention historical. It was where Napoleon Bonaparte was born. Aside from this fact being their banking point, it really is a paradise. I didn't realize how much I've been missing beaches and sunlight. To walk around in dresses and sandals everyday, oof! it was glorious. One thing that took me by surprise and worth noting is that the people are charming and drivers actually stop for pedestrians at the zebra crossing. The shock on our faces when this miraculous thing happened. Everytime we’re about to cross (at a crossing), cars stopped as if our lives are precious. Now this is how one know one had already been living in Paris for a while haha.

Sorry for disappearing again but my back up reasonings are pretty good don't you think? :) In the meantime, I've been enjoying more of my time exploring streets of Paris (and getting reacquainted in avoiding being hit by cars), capturing bits with my phone and posting regularly through Facebook & Instagram and speaking of, here are some mobile snapshots of Corsica. Stay well you xx

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Why Everybody Should Travel

I’m finding it rather difficult not to start this post by saying “forgive me for the lack of blog posting”. A major backlog of unwritten travel posts awaits but I have some downtime now whilst hibernating in my comfy studio apartment in Iceland and I’d rather share with you something that’s been on my mind.

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you would have known that I upload regular updates of my travels. On one of the photographs, a page liker asked “Why are you travelling?”

I was really dumbfounded reading this because I thought travel is common and everybody is doing it. To have someone asked me that question got me thinking, how blessed I am to have this experience. I replied short and sweet, “to see new things, learn and experience different cultures”. But let me talk about “travelling” just a little more in depth.

Travel is the best form of learning.

Back in my schooling days, it was typically few minutes before my attention span went out the window. Travelling has got to be my favourite form of learning method because although I don't feel like "learning something" is the main objective, every time I come back from a trip, I have more knowledge, opinions and thoughts.

Travel broadens your horizons.

In arts, in biographies, in architectures, in history, in cultures, in languages, in culinary. The possibility of learning new things whilst travelling is endless. It allows you to see new things and learn about what it is. If you’re curious, you can research and find out more about it. Travel allows you to see that thing you’ve watched on TV, see in movies, read in books and glanced over in magazines.

Travel creates new social circles.

Travel gets you making new friends. You get to meet people from all corners of this world and hear about their experiences, their tips on places they’ve been to and plenty other fascinating information.

Start planning that trip!

Now if you can't travel because of health issues, then that’s different. But if you are physically okay and have the capacity to earn money then you have all the capability to save up and book that trip! It does not need to be luxurious nor expensive as there are so many alternatives available that are cheap, safe and convenient. Information is at your disposal whether it's online or via travel agencies. My favourites are TripAdvisor, blogs and forums. Bottomline is: planning couldn't get any easier.

Travel is relevant to your dreams.

It gives the possibility of making your dreams closer, taking it one step further or driving it to a completely different direction. Travel affects your mind in the most positive ways.

I'm signing off this post with a picture of Sagrada Familia, a church in Barcelona, Spain. This magnificent church (even though still unfinished) is only one of Antoni Gaudi's masterpieces scattered all around Barcelona. Spanish-born Gaudi is probably the world's most celebrated architect. His creations are amazing and I cannot stop gushing about his work. You know what? He too, travelled. And you know what else? I did not know who Gaudi was, until I went to Barcelona.  

A Little Taste of Tuscany

I can’t tell you how often I heard about Tuscany being THE place one must explore when in Italy. It is a region fully saturated with architectures, arts and history and especially famous for its delicious food and wine. Since this is my first visit to Italy and time is most definitely of the essence, I chose to zero in on the city of Florence which is the region’s capital, as well as a day trips to the smaller towns of Pisa and Lucca.

There were so many things to see and explore in Florence and I really love how each attractions was between reach by foot. Walking was definitely the best way to explore Florence.

The Cathedral of Florence – Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

Beautiful view of Florence and the Arno River from Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio is the only surviving medieval bridge in Florence when every other one had been blown up during World War II and rebuilt afterwards. This bridge is now lined with shops selling gold jewellery and outdoor market stalls.

Piazza della Republica

Piazza della Republica is located in the Duomo neighbourhood. I came here on a beautiful afternoon with a delicious pink berry gelato when the sky was pastel blue, the sun was shimmering softly and there was a group of street musicians playing the coolest jazz music. It didn’t get any better than that.

Piazza della Signoria

Piazza della Signoria is the heart of Florence decorated with some of the more famous sculptures such as Benvenuto Cellini’s Perseus (holding Medusa’s head). Michelangelo’s David was originally here too before it was moved to Galleria dell’Accademia and replaced by a replica.

Italian fashion labels

Being in Italy, you cannot escape from lusting over the big boys of fashion labels. Via de’ Tornabuoni, Via Strozzi and Via della Vigna Nuova are the streets where you can find legendary Italian labels and even a museum dedicated to Salvatore Ferragamo’s journey in fashion creations.

Florence is famous for its gelato.

Did you know that I am a total ice-cream and gelato lover? Being in Florence was like utter heaven and the gelatos here were better than any other places in Italy (even the franchised Grom). I went on a little hunt of my own to find the best gelateria. Here are my top three on a countdown. 

3. Il Granduca (Address: Via dei Calzaioli, 57, 50122 Florence)

2.Perche No! (Address: Tavolini 19rFlorence)

1. Cantina di Gelato. I can sing praises of this place. Just out of this world delicious. Whenever I think of gelato, this place is what came up in mind. (Address: Via de Bardi, 31Florence)

Runner-up: La Sorbettiera (AddressPiazza T.Tasso, 11/r50123 Florence)

The gelato from this last one actually tasted very similar to my number one but it’s a runner-up because it is located so far away from the city centre. But if you happen to be in an area closest to this, give it a go.

Markets are scattered all over Florence.

Indoor food market

I have a thing for food markets especially the ones with neatly arranged products and Florence's indoor fresh produce market was no exception.

At the back of this market is also where you can find food stalls selling some of the best food I’ve eaten in all of Tuscany.

Pisa

I have known about the Leaning Tower of Pisa ever since I was in kindergarten so there was no way I’d miss out on the opportunity of seeing this architectural wonder. Deciding to forgo taking a bus from the Pisa station to the tower was the best choice because strolling through Pisa town felt most enchanting.

The Leaning Tower is located right behind the magnificent Duomo in Campo dei Miracoli and was originally built to be the bell tower of the cathedral. The tower started leaning from the beginning of construction because there was too much water seeping through which resulted in deteriorating soil condition. The lean became so bad that the bells were stilled to prevent vibrations from shaking the tower further.

Although the tower is opened to the public, I chose not to climb up the tower frankly because I was scared to be at such an angle :)

Lucca

It made sense to catch a train from Pisa to Lucca which was just 30 minutes away by train. Lucca is such a charming little town. I was there on a Sunday and it was so lovely to see families coming out to the piazza with their children just enjoying fun quality time together.

So that was my little taste of Tuscany which was really wonderful and I was really lucky to have visited when the sun was blasting every single day. There are so much more left to be discovered so I’m really looking forward to come back one day and explore the rest of this fantastic region.

Rome

As this post gets typed, I have just left Termini Train Station in Rome, making my way to my next destination. I’ll have you know that I’m also on the wrong train and I’m not joking. The train that I was supposed to take is apparently the next one on the platform which is the express train that would take me to Florence in less than 1.5 hours whereas this train that I’m on will take 4 hours. The sweet life of a traveller isn’t it? But that’s okay as I have got a lot to share with you.

I went to Rome having heard so much great things about the city but never thought I would leave the city with my own incredible story to tell. Let me break down my days in Rome in the order of the discoveries.

First meal in Rome

I read somewhere that in Italy, you are never far from a good meal. I didn’t want to take chances so I had to ask for recommendations. On my first night, the hotel concierge kindly shared his knowledge on where to find good food for dinner. He advised on exploring the street of Via della Lungaretta in Trastevere which has good and cheap restaurants lined up along. I picked one and ordered pizza, garlic bread topped with rocket salad, fried zucchini flower and squid. It was a good meal. I also came back to this street a couple of times and picked random restaurants and they were all good.

Roaming the streets of Rome

I love taking my strolls to explore the narrow winding streets and noticing all the pretty little details that seemed to be everywhere I looked.

I have to also point out that whilst wearing heels in Paris is bearable for an hour or two, there was no way one could do the same in Rome where most of the roads are cobblestoned.

When I did my research into Rome, I found that best area to stay is any area close to Piazza Navona and the Trevi fountain. I did exactly that and it didn’t disappoint as every other major attraction was within walking distance.

Trevi Fountain

Colosseum

Piazza

My two favourites piazza of Rome are Piazza Navona and Piazza di Spagna. Piazza Navona is lined by outdoor cafes where you can just sit and enjoy a sip of wine and just do a lot of people watching. On a good sunny day you can find lots of street artists selling their paintings and the likes.

Piazza di Spagna features the Spanish stairs, where you can find a lot of people chilling out on the stairs. This piazza is also adjoined by the lavish streets of Via Condotti and Via del Babuino where you can indulge in hours of retail therapy and if those weren’t enough, the street of Via del Corso is just a few feet away.

Gelato

Oh my.. I have indulged in so much gelatos that I have lost count on how much I have eaten. They make them so good in Italy!! Granted I now have my favourite places and I have been gorging on 2-3 gelatos a day. But get this, it didn’t break the bank as a cup or cone with massive scoops of gelatos cost as little as 2 euros and they are all of very good quality. I think my waistline might be a thing of the past by the time I depart Italy.

Hotel de Russie and Tullio Ristorante

Carin so sweetly emailed me her favourite places in Rome. One being the beautiful courtyard of Hotel de Russie for a glass of prosecco and the wonderfully simple but amazing food at Tullio Restaurant. The waiters were very friendly and quick to whisk a table. On top of that, they cheekily gave complimentary glasses of good quality chardonnay. It was the best meal I had in all of my 6 days in Rome.

Vatican City

When I was planning my itinerary to Rome, visiting Vatican City was always part of the 'must-do'. There was no way I would miss out on seeing St Peter’s Basilica and seeing the interior of the Sistine Chapel. These were massive, grand and beautiful works of arts.

Pope Benedict XVI addressed the world for the final time and I was there!

I had this thought of attending a mass lead by the Pope but as I was lodging application for tickets to attend a mass, I read news that Pope Benedict XVI was going to resign from his post. So I was never sure if I’d even get the chance to attend a mass or not.

Dates of his last days as Pope varied in every source I read but the ticket arrived anyway before I left Paris for what turned out to be the Pope Benedict’s last address to the world. I couldn’t believe I got the chance to witness this event live in St Peter’s Basilica Square.

The sky couldn't be more blue that day and I couldn't help thinking “God is definitely watching over the Pope”.

When the Pope made his way through the crowds in his ‘popemobile’, it felt surreal to be standing less than one metre away from him. Oh and I took this photo without any zoom.

Incredible moment

There were approximately 150,000 people in the square so it was pretty noisy especially as the Pope arrived at the altar and people cheered on. But just before the Pope started to speak, everybody became quiet within seconds to hear the precious words of His Holiness. This silence felt extraordinary.

We listened carefully as the Pope delivered his main address in Italian and we were all astounded when His Holiness expressed gratitude in no less than six languages: Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese, before leading a song of prayer. He is clearly loved and will be missed by his devotees. The atmosphere in St Peter’s Square seemed pensive as people went deep in thoughts when the Pope acknowledged honestly in his address that his eight years as the Vatican leader had been of happy times but there had been challenges.

The last time a Pope resigned from his post was over 600 years ago so this was a particularly major world event. Never in my life have I seen so many camera crews in the one spot and the level of security – oof! Later on, as this event made breaking news and headlines worldwide, I also caught a glimpse of myself on TV as one of the audience on CNN, SKY and BBC news, not once, but six times.

It felt utterly special to be in the midst of all this, standing in the middle of the thousands of pilgrims who literally made their way from all corners of the world.

A walk along the Tiber River, crossing the Cestia Bridge and walking onto Tiber Island made for the perfect way for the last stroll in Rome.

I absolutely love my stay in Rome and I must admit that it was really naïve of me to have thought that Rome was just about the Colosseum and the gladiator tales when as a matter of fact, this amazing city is about so much more. I consider myself to be so lucky to have visited, learnt so much and also experienced one-of-a-kind event and this visit is most definitely unforgettable.

Travel: Mykonos Part 2

Whenever someone asks me, “how was Greece?” I’d just shake my head, sigh and say “it was incredible”. It truly was and I must point out that I always think of my experience in the island of Mykonos whenever the word Greece is mentioned.

The beauty of this island was breathtaking and had that utterly effortless ambience. It felt like you can sit for ages just taking in the scenery.

I loved walking along the beaches, seeing the windmills, enjoying the fresh air and the beautiful water view.

I also loved exploring Little Venice which is the heart of Mykonos. Along the cobblestone pathway, there were all kinds of charming little boutiques, eateries and souvenir stores.

The one thing I definitely miss is this simple fresh tomatoes and cucumber salad, drizzled with olive oil. I tried to recreate it at home but it's just not the same.

When I walked further into Little Venice, I discovered this white church and it turned out to be the most photographed church in Mykonos.

Look at that water! I couldn’t resist working my way down.

And that's me in the picture, tryin' to go back up. Climbing the wet rocks was a lot of hard work, great for the thighs though.                 

Although driving in Mykonos was quite tricky as most roads were narrow and winding, hiring a 4-wheeled motor bike was a good idea as it made such a convenient way to explore the island and visit the beaches surrounding the island.

Love this adorable donkey, had to stop for a little bit to say hello.

Allianz and Starbucks looked too cute in their white Greecian squares.

I was told that a trip to Mykonos was incomplete unless you see Petros the pelican, Mykonos' mascot. I got a little sad when I hadn’t seen him but on my last day, there he was! 

Gorgeous scenery everywhere

and still beautiful in the evening with twinkling lights

I love that during my visit in Mykonos, the sky was always blue, the sun was always shining and the water was always crystal clear. I was happy and considered myself very lucky. Seeing the photographs never failed to remind me how wonderful it had been and so without a doubt, Mykonos is now listed as one of the places I would tell my future children and grandchildren to put in their bucket list.